Decision : CONF 209 VIII.C.2
Deferral: The Loire Valley between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire (France)
Property: The Loire Valley between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire
Id. N°: 933
State Party: France
Criteria: C (ii) (iv)
A lengthy and substantive debate took place with regard to this nomination and on the general issue of cultural landscapes.
It was generally recognised that the Loire Valley had outstanding universal value and was worthy of being inscribed as a cultural landscape on the World Heritage List under cultural criteria (ii) and (iv). It was also noted that a Steering Committee with representation from territorial authorities and institutions involved, had been established to oversee the management of the area and that the management of this complex and extensive cultural site was exemplary, innovative and appropriate. However, several delegates raised concerns about the nuclear power plant located within the boundaries of the proposed site.
After a first round of discussions, the Chairperson established a working group with the participation of Australia, Benin, Finland, France, Italy, Thailand, the United Kingdom and ICOMOS. At a later stage, the Delegate of Italy who had chaired the working group summarised the discussions and informed the Committee that no consensus had been reached. One of the issues in the discussions had been the interpretation of the definition of the category of the "organically evolved landscape" and its subcategory of the "continuing landscape" in which the "evolutionary process is still in progress" (Operational Guidelines, paragraph 39 (ii)), and whether or not an industrial plant would be compatible with a World Heritage property of this kind.
ICOMOS proposed to the Committee that the property be inscribed on the World Heritage List with reference being made to the disturbing presence of the nuclear power plant and a recommendation made to the State Party to take the appropriate measures to prevent eventual risks. ICOMOS underlined the responsibility of the State Party and the Management Steering Committee in this respect. He also noted that a clarification of the definition of the organically evolved landscape was needed. Concern was expressed that this issue was not raised in the ICOMOS evaluation.
The Observer of France emphasized that all the recommendations made by ICOMOS and endorsed by the Bureau in July 1999, were implemented. He expressed regret that the matter of the industrial plant was not raised earlier in the recommendations of the Bureau at its sessions in July and November. For this reason, the State Party was not given the chance to respond to eventual concerns about this matter that is an issue that had been largely studied by the Government with all necessary risk assessment in place. He noted that there was a matter of principle involved in the discussion, namely the question if contemporary elements inherent to modern life are accepted in a cultural landscape. He pointed out that France had presented this important cultural heritage nomination in the framework of the Global Strategy and with the aim of diversifying the World Heritage List. He said that this nomination had required much effort for its conception and had received wide support in France. He also commented that the national authorities had created a Management Steering Committee for the site, which was innovative for this country. Furthermore, the Observer stated his concern regarding the objections to the nuclear power plant, and questioned whether the objections would have been the same in the case of an industrial plant of a different nature. He urged the Committee to substantiate its decision and said that ICOMOS's proposal would be acceptable to the State Party.
During the debate that followed, two differing positions emerged. Some delegates supported the view that modern elements are acceptable in a continuing landscape and noted that, in this case, adequate measures and contingency plans were in place. The Delegate of Belgium declared that the World Heritage Committee was not the appropriate venue to conduct discussions relating to nuclear energy. Other delegates stressed the need for more in-depth consideration of this issue and recommended that consideration of this nomination be deferred. It was also emphasized that a fundamental discussion on the interpretation of the cultural landscape categories, a very promising concept for many States Parties, might be necessary, but that this discussion should not take place in the context of, and influence the, consideration of a particular landscape nomination.
IUCN noted that it had reviewed the nomination but that the presence of a nuclear power plant had not been obvious in the dossier. IUCN stressed that a decision by the World Heritage Committee to inscribe this site on the World Heritage List could send a message to the outside world that sites of outstanding universal value can have large industrial developments, including nuclear power plants, within their boundaries. He stated that this debate should not jeopardize the significance or the value of the cultural landscape concept.
The Chairperson then called for a vote on this matter. The Director of the World Heritage Centre read the rules from the Rules and Procedures that refer to the voting procedures. The Chairperson then asked the Committee members to vote for two options: (a) in favour of inscription of the Loire Valley on the World Heritage List, or (b) deferral of the examination to the twenty-fourth session of the Bureau.
The Delegates of Belgium, Benin, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Portugal and Thailand voted for inscription on the World Heritage List. The delegates of Australia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Zimbabwe voted for deferral. Morocco and Egypt abstained.
The Chairperson noted that, in accordance with rule 29.2 of the Rules of Procedure, the required majority was two-thirds of the Committee members present and voting. As nineteen Committee members were present and voting, he concluded that the required number for a majority was thirteen. With twelve votes for inscription and seven votes for deferral, the Chairperson declared the examination of the nomination of the Loire Valley between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire deferred.
The Observer of France thanked all members of the Committee for their serious consideration of this nomination and noted that basic and fundamental issues had been raised, and that this would certainly stimulate and encourage States Parties to continue in this innovative line. The Chairperson thanked the Observer of France for the courageous nomination and the members of the Committee for their participation in the debate.